Georgia's DNA database cracks 2,000th case

The crime wasn't very spectacular, but it was remarkable: the 2,000th crime the state's DNA database solved.

The suspect is more of a nuisance than a hardened criminal.

“His name is synonymous with trouble,” Capt. Chris Tatum of the Waycross Police Department said of the suspect who was identified  Thursday. “He is being sought.”

Though the crime -- robbery -- does not qualify as one of the most egregious, the criminal has the distinction of being No. 2,000.

“As the size of the DNA database increases, we expect and hope that this trend will continue,” said Vernon Keenan, director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which maintains the database that is primarily supported by federal funds.

There are more than 214,000 “profiles,” or samples, in the database. Most of the samples were collected from known criminals  and almost 9,800 is evidence collected at crime scenes.

In the case of the Waycross robber, he had given a swab while he was in the local jail for violating probation.

Tatum said investigators had their suspicions but “he had somewhat of an alibi" so they couldn't charge him. "He had been staying at a friend’s house because he was on the run for a probation violation,” Tatum said.

While Tatum didn’t want to provide the suspect’s name until he has been arrested, he was willing to share details of the 2008 robbery of a pizza restaurant.

“I think he was just trying to raise money to get more dope or to pay his probation off,” Tatum said. “He was out of work and he couldn't get a legitimate job.”

So the man went to Papa John’s with plans to hide his identify inside a trash bag.

A woman was working the cash register when a man with a trash bag over his head -- a couple of holes cut in the black plastic so he could see -- came in with a stick.

He wanted money.

But the cashier was slow opening the till. As she fumbled with the cash drawer, another employee came from the back of the store with a mop and whacked the robber over the head.

He ran, pulling the bag off his head while fleeing.

“That’s were we got the blood,” said Sgt. Chris Poole with Waycross police said. “He never got any money.”

Waycross detectives had their suspicions but they weren't certain of the connection until it was confirmed Thursday morning.

“Until we got the ... [DNA database] hit, it could have been anybody,” Tatum said.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation began building the DNA database of imprisoned sex offenders in 1998; 13 crimes were solved over the next two years. The law was changed in 2000 to require DNA samples be collected from all state prisoners and that year 70 cases were solved.

The 1,000 mark was passed in 2008, 10 years after the state began collecting samples. The 1,500 mark was hit last year.

The GBI said most of the crimes solved with DNA hits were for burglaries, 826, and rape, 735, but the suspects’ DNA was often collected because repeat offenders had been sent to prison for drug, burglary or robbery convictions.

Since the law was expanded in 2007 to take samples from some of the 150,000 felons on probation, 136 suspects, have been identified -- 56 rapes, 64 burglaries, nine robberies, five car thefts and two murders.

Last week, a DeKalb County grand jury indicted a 39-year-old man in four rapes that occurred between July 2002 through April 2003. The GBI linked the cases and detectives found the suspect, Sylvester Antonio Ray.

The 16-count indictment said Ray held a woman captive and raped her in July of 2002. He is accused of attacking another woman the following November. He is accused of the rape of two more women in April 2003. Ray was arrested in May and remains in the DeKalb County Jail.